This article is the result of the work and research of two students of Theosophy, one in Latvia and the other in England. Both had at one time read and studied some of the Agni Yoga material with sincere interest, only to later discover for themselves that it was not quite what it claimed to be.
Nicholas and Helena Roerich (1874-1947 and 1879-1955 respectively) were Russians and great admirers of their countrywoman H.P. Blavatsky (founder of the Theosophical Movement) and her work.
Beginning in 1924 with the publication in Russian of “Leaves of Morya’s Garden” they promulgated their own spiritual teachings which they called “Agni Yoga” and which they claimed had been inspired and dictated to Helena by the Master Morya, the Guru of HPB. Theosophists will be aware that the Master Morya and the Master Koot Hoomi were the two Mahatmas of the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood who were most closely and directly connected with HPB and the founding of the Theosophical Movement.
The more credulous and naïve will unquestioningly accept the Roerichs’ claims about being in personal communication with the same Master and supposedly carrying on the work of HPB. The more sensible and wisely cautious will examine and investigate such claims and the facts and historical background behind them before accepting or denying.
The purpose of this article is to aid the sincere spiritual seeker in doing this.
The Roerichs were no ordinary family. Helena’s husband, Professor Nicholas Roerich, was a celebrated painter, archaeologist, social activist, and author of the “Roerich Pact” which was meant to ensure the preservation and protection of cultural monuments in times of war. Their son George was a Tibetologist, linguist, and the Head of the Indology Department at the Institute of Oriental Studies in Moscow. The younger son Svetoslav was also a famous painter. And Helena was a writer and a source of inspiration for them all.
But can their spiritual claims and teachings really be trusted? Was their Teacher really the same as the Master of H.P. Blavatsky? Let us consider a few important points.
CONTACTING THE “MASTERS” THROUGH SPIRITUALISTIC SEANCES
The way they became Theosophists is described in the diary of their devoted follower Sina Fosdick, who wrote “In 1919 in London, the Roerichs became acquainted with . . . the spiritual legacy of their predecessor H.P. Blavatsky, wherein a large amount was written about the Great White Brotherhood including the basics of Their Teachings. In London also occurred the unexpected physical meeting of Helena Roerich with two Mahatmas. All of this gave the couple the opportunity to think over and make sense of the interdependent set of visions, insights, inspiration and highly miraculous incidents they had experienced over many years of their lives. It was probably this meeting in London that led her to try to establish regular contact with Mahatmas M. and K.H. who were previously the mentors and patrons of H.P. Blavatsky. Here in London they began to conduct their first attempts to establish a dialogue with the named Teachers, using the best techniques available in the early stages, namely the spiritual séances that were well known in those days.” (Translation from Russian)
In 2004, Daniel Entin – the Director of the Roerich Museum in New York – wrote in an online Agni Yoga forum, “I can tell you that throughout the years of my work with Sina Fosdick, when we would sit together in the evening and talk, she always listened for knocks that would tell her that Master was there, telling us something. And Sina wrote that when she and her husband came from America in 1926 to meet the Roerichs in Moscow, the first thing she and EI [i.e. Elena Ivanovna Roerich] did upon meeting was sit at a table to communicate. You may not like these pieces of information, or may choose to accept them but interpret them as you like – that is your right.”
This method of sitting together at a table in order to communicate with unseen entities via a series of mysterious knocks and raps is nothing more than the practice of spiritualistic mediums, so strongly and consistently criticised, derided, opposed, and warned against by HPB herself and by the real Masters M. and K.H. in their many letters. The idea that an authentic and legitimate agent or disciple of the Masters would require a séance in order to receive communications from them is absurd, especially in light of the fact that they have repeatedly stated that they can never and will never use such means.
There are ways to discover if the person in different cases is the same. Handwriting is one way. In the British Library in London, anyone can take a look at the original Mahatma Letters and see the Mahatma Morya’s handwriting.
Is there any piece of paper provided by Helena Roerich containing the same handwriting? Unfortunately not. All the books of Agni Yoga were written through means of clairvoyance or clairaudience, as she stated, and “spiritual séances.”
There are only two instances mentioned in her biography in which she apparently met the Masters in person. First, by her own admission, she saw them in London in 1920 in a crowd of Indian delegates and “she was unpleasantly surprised by the way they looked at her and did not recognize them.” The next time was in India, or rather Sikkim, when they met and received the famous “Message from Mahatmas” to Communists, along with some soil from the Eastern “Holy Land” to sprinkle on the grave of Lenin, or “Mahatma Lenin” as he is called in the Agni Yoga books, which state that he today resides at Shambhala.
The original of the document cannot be found in order to see the handwriting; only the text, praising the achievements of Communists. After the Roerichs moved to live in India, in the valley of Kulu, they never again claimed to have met the Master Morya in his physical or astral body, nor did anyone amongst their colleagues or associates make such an assertion. These are the known facts.
Another way to discover if an unseen entity is in fact the individual he is claimed to be, would be the character of the messages and communications. This is perhaps not so reliable as solid tangible proofs but can still be considered as evidence. Although Helena Roerich forbade the publication of her diaries, these have been published since her death, and contain the original and full records of the séances from which were extracted the Agni Yoga teachings.
Record of December 1st, 1921. By M. (Morya)
“- Roerich (Nicholas), read the “Sun” newspaper today.
“- Give the story “Flame” to Cane, he will translate and publish.
“- My hand will move away your dangers, as much as destiny allows.
“- Take aspirin and go to sleep.
“- Uruswati [i.e. a sacred Sanskrit name meaning “Light of the Morning Star” and often applied to Venus, which was purportedly given to Helena Roerich as her spiritual name by the Master], do not worry, I will lead you to the exposed Lhasa.
“- Uruswati, you can peacefully target the eye and ear tomorrow evening.
“- Through the earthly nets showed up the heads of Lhasa.
“- The land obstructs the sight of mountains but anyway we will get there.
“- It is hard to breathe for Roerich. [Nicholas Roerich had a stuffy nose at the time.]
Such messages typical to spiritualist séances contain none of the character of personality. They are short, because every letter in the message has to be selected from the alphabet guided only by “yes” or “no” raps/knocks on the table. The typically short sentences which comprise much of the Agni Yoga literature can thus be accounted for by the method through which many of the messages were received.
It is hard to compare such a “spiritual telegraph” message to the actual letters of the Mahatmas, since they never used such a manner of communication, nor did they ever recommend its use to anyone. Even when they did not materialise letters out of apparent thin air before the very eyes of their correspondents, or add commentaries on the margins of letters sent by others while those were still in sealed envelopes travelling through the postal system, but dictated letters to HPB telepathically, those letters were still always in the form of full and often very lengthy and detailed sentences, containing thoughts, advice, and warnings, and no promises or straight orders or simple statements of trivial fact such as the stuffy nose of Nicholas Roerich.
“GOD’S PLAN” AND “PRAYERS TO THE CREATOR”
As time went on, the “telegraph” messages started to contain teaching. This contained many similarities with the Theosophy of H.P. Blavatsky, such as the concepts of Karma, Reincarnation, and the Hierarchy of Masters, but it was also mixed with ideas that strongly contradict Theosophy.
For example, despite a fairly strong Eastern tone, we find such statements as the following in the very first of the books, titled “Leaves of Morya’s Garden” with the subtitle “Book One: The Call”:
* “Smile – I grant thee the joy of spreading the Teaching of Christ.”
* “Thou servest a cause beyond the reach even of wealth. The pure offering is returned by God to those who in pure faith offered Isaac upon the altar; And Mount Moriah, which accepted the offering, will guard the treasure of the heart.”
* “God’s plan differs from the ways of men.”
* “Thou wilt reach that predestined by Christ.”
* “The servant waits upon the Lord, All-Merciful. According to our zeal do we receive the hue of our spiritual vestment. Let us seek the worthiest attire for the Feast of Light. O Thou Benevolence, O Thou Sufferer of the Cross, Thou wilt attest the fire of our resurrection there at the foot of the ladder leading to the Temple of Divine Glory.”
* “In the name of Christ we carry the rocks. Erect Thy Altar, O Lord, in our garden. The rocks are too large for the garden. Too steep the steps for the flowers. On a cloud He approaches. On the grass shall He sit beside us. I rejoice, O Lord, to give to Thee my garden. Depart not, O Manifested Lord. Desert not our garden. With stars is Thy Path adorned. Among them shall I find Thy Way. I shall follow Thee – My Lord.”
* “Prayers to the Creator are offered not only in temples – the wax of the candle is consumed in the labor of life.”
* “Streams of joy fill the ocean of the Creator’s Thought. And thou, pouring drops of joy into the human soul, art bringing offerings to the Creator of the Universe.”
* “The change from day to night is imperceptible to the eye. But hallow the sacredness of God’s Abode.”
* “The Right Hand of God asserteth Itself and pronounceth the Dawn of Day.”
Compare these distinctly Christian, Biblical, and un-Theosophical ideas of God, Creator, Christ, prayer etc. attributed by Roerich to the Master Morya with what the actual Masters say and teach in their own Letters. We find them denying the existence of God, describing belief in God as superstition, denying a Creator and creation, speaking of prayer and intercession as a delusion born out of ignorance, revering Buddha rather than Christ, and emphasising that “Christ” is merely a term for a subjective spiritual principle and not the name or title of any being or entity.
And the actual Masters also say – in regard to the question of whether they can present distinctly different and opposite views and ideas at various times – that “Truth is One and cannot admit of diametrically opposite views” and that “We have no two beliefs or hypotheses on the same subject.” (See “The Mahatma Letters” #IX, p. 49 and “The Key to Theosophy” p. 87)
It once so happened that a prominent English Theosophist was planning to publish an article in which it was stated that the Masters of the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood believe in and accept the notion of God. In response to this the Master Koot Hoomi wrote:
“This is preposterously ridiculous: if he publishes what I read, I will have H.P.B. or Djual Khool deny the whole thing; as I cannot permit our sacred philosophy to be so disfigured. He says that people will not accept the whole truth; that unless we humour them with a hope that there may be a “loving Father and creator of all in heaven” our philosophy will be rejected a priori. In such a case the less such idiots hear of our doctrines the better for both. If they do not want the whole truth and nothing but the truth, they are welcome. But never will they find us – (at any rate) – compromising with, and pandering to public prejudices. … The truth is, my dear friend, that notwithstanding the great tidal wave of mysticism that is now sweeping over a portion of the intellectual classes of Europe, the Western people have as yet scarcely learned to recognise that which we term wisdom in its loftiest sense.” (“The Mahatma Letters” #LIV, p. 304-305)
And who can forget the Master’s unequivocal words in Mahatma Letter #10? – “Our doctrine knows no compromises. It either affirms or denies, for it never teaches but that which it knows to be the truth. Therefore, we deny God both as philosophers and as Buddhists. We know there are planetary and other spiritual lives, and we know there is in our system no such thing as God, either personal or impersonal. … The word “God” was invented to designate the unknown cause of those effects which man has either admired or dreaded without understanding them, and since we claim and that we are able to prove what we claim – i.e. the knowledge of that cause and causes we are in a position to maintain there is no God or Gods behind them.” (p. 52)
In reading “The Secret Doctrine” we discover that “The Initiates never use the epithet “God” to designate the One and Secondless Principle in the Universe.” (Vol. 2, p. 555)
The Master Morya and Master K.H. themselves claimed authorship of “The Secret Doctrine,” describing it as the “triple production” of themselves with the one they called their “direct agent” and “brother” H.P. Blavatsky, as can be seen in Who wrote “The Secret Doctrine”?.
Who then are we to believe about what the Masters actually say and teach? If we give credence to the entirely unsupported claim of the Roerichs that the Agni Yoga books are the words of the Master Morya, then we are literally forced to conclude that (a) he and the other Masters were either completely mistaken in everything they said and taught prior to their involvement with Helena Roerich, or (b) he and the other Masters purposely misled thousands upon thousands of people during the days of HPB by deliberately presenting something entirely different and contradictory to what they actually believe and teach.
Neither of these are particularly appealing prospects and we are perhaps closer to the facts of the matter when considering the third option, namely that the Agni Yoga teachings are not in any way connected with the real Master Morya or the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood. But perhaps we should examine some more facts before being able to confidently state that this is the case.
Since she called herself a Theosophist and even presented herself as some type of successor to H.P. Blavatsky, although she may never have specifically said this, how did she deal with this matter? In her letter written on 12th September 1934 to a correspondent, she explains:
“Also, if you read attentively and objectively the “Letter about God”: in The Mahatma Letters, you will see that the Mahatma repudiates the sacrilegious and anthropomorphic conception of a Personal god – cruel and unjust, chastising with eternal damnation all so-called heretics, and justifying all the crimes committed in his Holy Name! Verily, such a God cannot have a Mahatma’s approval and respect. But it is impossible to call the book, The Mahatma Letters, atheistic, for how could They who proclaim the Immortality of the Spirit and who Themselves have attained it have anything to do with dead atheism? But people are not yet ready for this book – here you are quite right. But please point out that there should be no utterance of condemnation of the Mahatmas. Great will be the astonishment and, I might say, mortification of many when they find out who in reality is the Leading Mahatma. Great Images have many Aspects and Names. ”
The above is the English translation as made available to the English speaking world. But in the original Russian text of the letter her words are as follows:
“And you assume that the author of the “Letter about God” would be perplexed if he would know that in the name of this “celestial tyrant” the venerable Sergius [i.e. a saint of the Russian Orthodox Church] accomplished his long-lasting heroic deeds? I answer you with a paragraph from the book “Heart” [i.e. part of the Agni Yoga series]: “Avoid disputes without recourse. I wondered at the recent controversy amongst the followers [i.e. the Agni Yoga followers] about Joan of Arc, St. Sergius of Radonezh and Moses. Each claimed that his Ideal does not agree with the other. Meanwhile, knowing the truth, it is regrettable to hear these inventions, which are works for separation.” Perhaps these words are not clear to you, so I will explain: we can and must select a Higher Ideal, to which to open our heart, but in selecting Him we have no right to condemn another image, for, verily, He may be the same. Great appearances have had many aspects and names. Do you know which great images are written in the book of life of the older Mahatma? Truly, only the Mahatma, the most Senior among them, knows the truth. Therefore, in our ignorance, beware of blasphemy! Now, if you carefully and with an open mind read the “Letter about God,” you will see that Mahatma denies and speaks against only a blasphemous, i.e. a human representation, of the Personal God, cruel and unjust, punishing with eternal damnation every heretic and justifying all the atrocities committed for His glory by church dogma and who, being propitiated by the sacrifice of His Son, admits into His Heavenly Kingdom only those who believe in this sacrifice.”
So, where was the right answer after all? With a lot of presumptions, warnings, instructions, rhetorical questions that cannot be affirmed or denied, but with no spark of logic at all, she deliberately avoids dealing with the exact, unambiguous meaning of the words in the Mahatma Letter, that not only the religious idea about a personal God is false, but that there is “no such thing as God, either personal or impersonal.” Almost every member or supporter of the Agni Yoga Society is fully aware of those Letters and most have read them and consider them to be a source of Truth. They agree with them but obviously give their own idea and interpretation to what is said in them.
ASSERTIONS OF INCARNATIONS & REINCARNATIONS
To understand the meaning of the presumed link mentioned by her between those historical Christian personalities of St. Sergius of Radonezh and Moses, in the minds of her disciples, one should turn for explanation to the Diaries of Helena Roerich, which contain typical messages from séances in the form of question and answer:
“- Were any of the Teachers Russian? – Sergius of Radonezh – Morya.
On the expression of surprise by Roerich, that Sergius of Radonezh could have been reincarnated as the Emperor Akbar and had several wives – “The uncle of Uruswati can give the explanation.”
“- Who is the uncle of Uruswati? – Historian of Akbar.
“- Which country does M.M. call his fatherland? – Mongolia.” (November 1928)
In a letter from Helena Roerich to American co-workers, some of whom were Jewish, she said, “And I want to emphasise that Moses must be included in the chain of Names of Mahatma Morya’s incarnations. It is clear now why this painting [i.e. a painting by her husband] is so gorgeous and beautiful.”
Now, holding strictly to evidence, there is no definite possibility to prove or disprove such statements about those supposed incarnations of Mahatma Morya. But we do know that the Mahatma Morya never described himself as “The Leading Mahatma” or “The Older Mahatma.” Reading through “The Mahatma Letters” we get quite a different picture of things. We can also see there that the Master always gave such honorific titles to the Maha Chohan, more about whom can be read in the articles What is a Chohan? and The Letter from The Maha Chohan. And nor did HPB or the Master Morya himself ever indicate Mongolia as being the “fatherland” of the latter. On the contrary, he is always described and always describes himself as an Indian and a Rajput.
But Helena Roerich had quite a passion for making confident assertions about the incarnations and reincarnations of Great Souls. In another letter from September 1934 she wrote:
“In the writings of H. P. Blavatsky, and in The Mahatma Letters, you will find the statement that H. P. Blavatsky was the Hierarchical link which, if neglected, would cause complete failure. And now the self-deluded ones who have passed into the Subtle World and are surrounded by their followers are probably even further away from the Stronghold of the White Brotherhood than ever. Whereas, our great compatriot, because of her fiery striving, was incarnated (in Hungary) almost immediately after her death, and now it has been ten years since she arrived in her physical body at the main Stronghold and under the name of Brother X is working for the salvation of humanity. Thus acts Cosmic Justice. H. P. Blavatsky was a great martyr in the real sense of the word. The envy, slander and persecution of the ignorant killed her, and her work remained unfinished. The concluding volume of The Secret Doctrine could not be given. Thus people deprive themselves of the highest. I much revere the great spirit and fiery heart of our country-woman, and I know that in the Russia of the future her name will be fittingly honored. H. P. Blavatsky should truly evoke our national pride. Great martyr for Light and Truth! May Glory always be with her!” (italics added)
In Roerich terminology, “the main Stronghold” is another name for Shambhala. And so it is claimed that the soul of HPB reincarnated in Hungary not long after the death of Helena Blavatsky in London in May 1891 and arrived at Shambhala to work there sometime around 1924. Compare this and all the manifold other bold assertions made about HPB’s purported reincarnations by self-proclaimed prophets, teachers, clairvoyants, and messengers, with the clear and simple statement of the Master K.H. in the final Mahatma Letter of 1900, sent to Annie Besant. Referring to HPB by her Buddhist name of “Upasika” (literally “female disciple”) he says, “The intense desire to see Upasika reincarnate at once has raised a misleading Mayavic ideation. Upasika has useful work to do on higher planes and cannot come again so soon.”
Quite possibly Helena Roerich did not know about this Letter. But if she really knew the Masters who she claimed to know, then she should surely have known about the facts.
Her reference to Joan of Arc relates to herself, as she believed herself to have been Joan of Arc in a previous lifetime – as well as several other important, heroic, or glamorous female figures known to history – and had no hesitation about saying so. Both she and Nicholas would sometimes inform their closest colleagues and associates of who they (i.e. the colleagues and associates) had been in their former incarnations. This may be contrasted with the attitude and actions of H.P. Blavatsky, who never said the slightest thing about any of the Masters’ or her own previous incarnations, nor told anyone else about theirs.
THE “ETHERIC DOUBLE,” PSYCHIC ENERGY, & WELCOMING THE PAINS OF KUNDALINI AWAKENING
One of the other contradictions to be found in the mind of Helena Roerich and therefore in the Agni Yoga teachings relates to the core Theosophical doctrine of the Seven Principles or sevenfold nature of man. These are not stated, described, or taught in any of the published Agni Yoga books. But in a letter to her close co-workers on 16th November 1935 she wrote:
“And now – your questions. I should like to make a few additions to the septenary division:
1. Physical body
2. Etheric double (sometimes called the lower astral body). Many of the phenomena of spiritualistic seances take place with the help of the etheric double of the medium
3. Prana – vital principle, inseparable from all manifestations in the Cosmos
4. Kama – animal soul (or higher astral body) through which desire is expressed in two aspects:
(a) Kama-Manas – lower mind, or the intellect.
(b) Kama Rupa – form (the subjective form of mental and physical desires and thoughts, or the thinker in action.)
5. Manas – self-consciousness, or the thinker (higher intelligence)
6. Buddhi – spirituality, the spiritual soul as distinct from the human-animal soul; the conductor through which Atma is manifested.
7. Atma – Spirit, or fiery element or energy, spread throughout the entire Cosmos.
“However, now that we have accepted this septenary subdivision, let us practice generalization, for it is always necessary to generalize. Therefore, point out that the so-called principles in us (with the exception of the physical body and the etheric double, which disintegrate after death) are just aspects or conditions of our consciousness. Indeed, all the divisions into spirit, soul, Manas – higher and lower – are in reality only various qualities of one and the same fundamental energy of Fire, or of life or consciousness, of which the highest aspect is psychic energy.”
On what authority other than her own self-assumed authority does she make these “few additions” and the emphasis on the supposed necessity of generalising? More serious than this is the assertion that all the Principles or components of the human constitution are just differentiations of an energy which in its highest aspect is psychic energy.
Let us take a look at how the Seven Principles are described in Theosophy. In “The Key to Theosophy” (p. 91-92) Madame Blavatsky describes them as:
(a) Rupa, or Sthula-Sharira. – Physical body. – Is the vehicle of all the other “principles” during life.
(b) Prana. – Life, or Vital principle. – Necessary only to a, c, d, and the functions of the lower Manas, which embrace all those limited to the (physical) brain.
(c) Linga Sharira. – Astral body. – The Double, the phantom body.
(d) Kama rupa. – The seat of animal desires and passions. – This is the centre of the animal man, where lies the line of demarcation which separates the mortal man from the immortal entity.
“THE UPPER IMPERISHABLE TRIAD
(e) Manas – a dual principle in its functions. – Mind, Intelligence: which is the higher human mind, whose light, or radiation links the MONAD, for the lifetime, to the mortal man. – The future state and the Karmic destiny of man depend on whether Manas gravitates more downward to Kama rupa, the seat of the animal passions, or upwards to Buddhi, the Spiritual Ego. In the latter case, the higher consciousness of the individual Spiritual aspirations of mind (Manas), assimilating Buddhi, are absorbed by it and form the Ego, which goes into Devachanic bliss.
(f) Buddhi. – The Spiritual Soul. – The vehicle of pure universal spirit.
(g) Atma. – Spirit. – One with the Absolute, as its radiation.”
Wait a moment, when did the Etheric Double come in? Did Helena Roerich invent it for convenience? No, she did not. She took the term from another Theosophist who had invented it, C.W. Leadbeater, who brought great confusion and distortion into Theosophical teachings by rewriting the human constitution (along with much more) according to his own self-proclaimed clairvoyant discoveries.
But let us proceed to the question of the psychic energy, which is described as the highest aspect of the “fundamental energy of Fire, or of life or consciousness.”
In her letter of 3rd September 1935, Helena Roerich developed the subject in question further, beginning by saying: “Your statement is correct: precisely, the Fire of Space, when realized is transmuted into psychic energy.”
And what is this “Fire of Space” (or “Fire of the Universe” in the original Russian text) she speaks about? She seems to be referring to Kundalini. HPB’s translation of “The Voice of the Silence” calls it “the fiery power” and she adds in her explanatory footnotes that “The “fiery power” is Kundalini. … The “Power” and the “World-Mother” are names given to Kundalini … Kundalini, the “Serpent Power”, or mystic fire. Kundalini is called the “Serpentine” or the annular power on account of its spiral-like working or progress in the body of the ascetic developing the power in himself. It is an electric fiery occult or Fohatic power, the great pristine force, which underlies all organic and inorganic matter.” (“The Voice of the Silence” p. 10, 13, Theosophy Company edition)
In “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 293, it’s taught that Kundalini is “The power or Force which moves in a curved path. It is the Universal life-Principle manifesting everywhere in nature.”
What else do Helena Roerich and the supposed Master M. have to say about Kundalini, which HPB called “an electro-spiritual force, a creative power which when aroused into action can as easily kill as it can create”?
“Spirit-knowledge is revealed in the consciousness of a true Agni Yogi. The consciousness that embraces the currents of Space and grasps the formula of psychic energy may enter the vortex of Kundalini.” (“Infinity” Book One, Message 22)
“As the sun is untiring, so shall Agni be inextinguishable!
The fire of Kundalini permits no indirect ways!
Consciousness is the divine energy!” (“Agni Yoga” Message 406)
“Whence come the application and the action of the fire of Kundalini? From the same source: the fire of love. The image of the essence that is projected on Our screens reveals the truth. How joyous it is to see the waves of growing fire! It is like an enchanted garden.
I love it when the fire of love radiates so much that one can overcome any obstacle!” (“Agni Yoga” Message 425)
“Agni Yoga is not just the progressive development of human ability; it leads one to a balanced contact with the fiery cosmic energies that reach our planet at the prescribed time. This fact must be clearly understood, otherwise a succession of sicknesses will spread, and their treatment by external measures can only lead to disastrous results.
“How can one be cured of these fiery illnesses? The inner fires must be utilized as a useful, psychically active force. How can one cure the pains in the spine that are caused by the awakening of Kundalini? He who knows will welcome the pains and relieve them by rubbing in mint. How can we stop the burning of the third eye when it begins to function? Is it not wiser to help its development by shielding it from the sun? Long ago people knotted their hair on the crowns of their heads in order to protect this channel. Can one stop the movement of the solar plexus when it begins to rotate? Any forcing of the solar serpent can result in injury to the brain. Equally dangerous is any interruption of the functioning of the center of the Chalice. Of course, any poisoning by narcotics, such as opium, will stop the movement of the centers; but then, decapitation would be even simpler!
“One can imagine what confusion would be caused by these inexplicable movements of the centers if we did not think of them in terms of psychic energy. Strange as it may seem, a study of the physical traces of imperil can lead to an understanding of the accumulations of psychic energy. One can observe the traces of imperil in any nerve channel. But it also can be noticed that, around the granulations of this poisonous viper, is gathered another substance that absorbs it: accumulations of psychic energy are found there too, because each energy has its physical crystal.” (“Agni Yoga” Message 220)
“One can foresee that some students will begin conducting psychic experiments with plants, but will not achieve any results. One can also foresee that some of these will then blame the Teaching for its imprecise Indications, without giving a thought to the inadequacy of their own psychic energy.
“One should not look for a lack of precision in Our Indications when I say that psychic energy must not only be strengthened but should also be refined. It will be strengthened under the waves of fire, when the aura begins to take on a purple color due to tensity. It will become refined from alertness, sharp-sightedness, and subtlety of thinking. How can one more exactly term the refinement of the current of thought when the formulas for the future resound in exaltation?
“Many people choose to pass these formulas by and thus avoid the spiritual stigmata brought on by the painful striving of the spirit. Truly, these stigmata are the best signs of sensitivity. Not coarse, startling manifestations, but wings of cosmic thought fall with the lightest touch upon the crown of the head, awakening the striving of the Kundalini. These thoughts may fleetingly leave intangible traces, but they sharpen the centers, so they become like needles gathering electricity. Are not our centers like pine needles?
“Whoever has entered upon the path of refining psychic energy will not speak of a lack of precision in Our Indications.” (“Agni Yoga” Message 502)
We may say that whoever has studied the original teachings of Theosophy will certainly speak of not only a lack of precision but also a lack of sense and safety in such “Indications” and indeed in anything which speaks so highly and positively about psychic energy.
“Agni Yoga” of course means “Fire Yoga,” “Agni” being the Sanskrit word for “Fire.” If the “Fire” referred to is Kundalini in some sense or other, surely these teachings won’t promote the old Hindu practice of stimulating and trying to awaken the Kundalini through pranayama, i.e. regulated suppression and manipulation of the breath, a dangerous practice to which all the Masters are unanimously opposed according to HPB? Unfortunately we would once again be mistaken. Helena Roerich’s “Master,” whoever he may be, says:
“You may ask Me what physical exercises are useful in Agni Yoga. I advise a short period of pranayama in the morning, no longer than five minutes. One should abstain from meat, except smoked meats. Vegetables, fruit, milk, and cereals are always beneficial. All alcohol is barred, except for curative purposes. Narcotics, such as opium, are inimical to Agni Yoga. Cloudy skies are burdensome for an Agni Yogi. I advise insulating one’s footwear with rubber and taking morning walks, avoiding smoky air. With courage must all events of life be faced, for it is impossible to decide where is the good and where the bad. He who brings the true Yoga into life fulfills his greatest mission. Thus, before us is the foundation of Agni Yoga.” (“Agni Yoga” Message 166)
In Letter #LVI of “The Mahatma Letters” the Master K.H. speaks about someone whose “own self-painted adeptship is entirely imaginary, he has nevertheless, by the injudicious practice of pranayam, developed in himself to some extent mediumship – is tainted for life with it. He has opened wide the door to influences from the wrong quarter, and is, henceforth almost impervious to those from the right.” (p. 325-326)
Might these words also be applied to Helena Roerich who, by her own admission, also practised pranayama on a regular basis as per the directions and instructions of her “Master”?
Regardless of what the practitioners of pranayama might think about the stance of Mahatma K.H. on the subject, it is clear as day that the positions of Agni Yoga and Theosophy on this matter are directly opposite. It probably also explains the intense pain that Helena Roerich suffered on an almost daily basis whilst being taught by her so-called Adept Gurus that it was “a necessary sacrifice,” a means of “opening the Universal channel that would put her in contact with all Teachers” through “a fiery transformation of her chakras,” thus producing a result that “will put the world in the next cycle of evolution,” “on the path to Arhatship,” when in fact it was just her inner collapse, like a constant hangover.
ROERICH’S RUSSIAN TRANSLATION OF “THE SECRET DOCTRINE”
It would be untrue to say that Helena Roerich was not closely familiar with the major works of Theosophy. She not only read H.P. Blavatsky’s monumental book “The Secret Doctrine” but also translated it into Russian. She also translated part of “The Mahatma Letters” book into Russian.
The version of “The Secret Doctrine” that she translated, however, was not the 1888 original as written and published by HPB but the altered and distorted “Third and Revised Edition” which had been published by Annie Besant in 1893 with around 40,000 alterations from the original text, alterations of both a minor and major nature. In making this translation, she also translated the misleadingly titled “Third Volume” of “The Secret Doctrine,” another deceptive Besant publication, from 1897, thus publishing in Russian many pages of private esoteric papers which HPB never wished or intended to have been made available to the public in any country whatsoever. They were reserved solely for the members of the Esoteric Section, who had taken a sacred and solemn pledge of secrecy. (See The “Third Volume” of The Secret Doctrine)
The poor quality and inevitable unreliability of her Russian “Secret Doctrine,” in light of the distorted text from which it was translated, is such that a new Russian translation of “The Secret Doctrine” has had to be made, this time from HPB’s own unaltered and unedited words. The translation of the first volume was completed in 2012 by Vladimir Bazyukin in co-operation with The Theosophical Society – Pasadena.
HELENA ROERICH ON DAMODAR & WILLIAM QUAN JUDGE
But in light of her obvious misunderstandings and difficulties in making sense of the Theosophical teachings, why did she not seek out communication and help from devoted and sincere students of Blavatsky who could have helped her in many ways? She had enough wisdom to know better than to trust the infamous desecrators of Theosophy such as C.W. Leadbeater and Alice Bailey, for whom she had nothing but strong criticism and opposition. But she must surely have known of the existence and work of such groups as the United Lodge of Theosophists. Well, whatever the case may have been, she had already found a “teacher,” one that was rapping out the “truth” in a series of otherworldly knocks on the séance table!
It was from either this entity or her own mind that she formed critical and misleading opinions of even HPB’s two closest and most trusted colleagues and co-workers, William Q. Judge and Damodar K. Mavalankar. In a letter dated 15th April 1939 to E.R. and R.J. Rudzitis, the Presidents of the Agni Yoga Society in Latvia, the most active branch of her followers in those days, she wrote:
“Judge was better than most. Many slandered him. But, of course, he also had certain weaknesses, which are unacceptable to the accepted students. Thus, the Mahatmas did not find any true disciple among Europeans. So, none of the Europeans reached the Towers.”
“Damodar, the beautiful Hindu soul, very devoted to the Great Teachers and to H.P. Blavatsky, still could not stand the last test. When he learned that HPB would not return to India, he abandoned the things that had been entrusted to him by her and went to Tibet in search of the Mahatmas. Of course, he did not make it to the Mahatmas and died in one of the Tibetan monasteries. The Mahatmas were very grieved for his wrongdoing, for it was he who was supposed to have remained in office as the most faithful witness and for the defence of H.P. Blavatsky and, therefore, of the whole Theosophical Movement. But he chose the easiest way out and it led to his downfall. The history of the Theosophical Movement, like any movement at all, has a lot of sad and ugly pages.”
Poor William Judge! How did HPB fail to overlook those unspecified “certain weaknesses, which are unacceptable to the accepted students” when she spoke and wrote repeatedly of him as being not only “my only friend” and “part of herself since several eons” but also as the Antahkarana or connecting link between “American thought and the Indian – or rather the trans-Himalayan Esoteric Knowledge”? More than that, she called him “the chief and only agent of the “Dzyan” in America,” stated that he was inwardly a Nirmanakaya (i.e. an initiated Adept or Bodhisattva), emphasised that he was an accepted chela of the Masters, already beyond the probationary stage, and the real Master Morya, who was the Guru of both Blavatsky and Judge wrote:
“For the first year or two no better guide can be had. For when the ‘PRESENCE’ is upon him, he knows well that which others only suspect and ‘divine.’ … greater services may be rendered to him, who, of all chelas, suffers most and demands, or even expects the least.” (See “Letters That Have Helped Me”, p. 271, Theosophy Company edition)
HPB once wrote: “If W.Q. Judge, the man who has done most for Theosophy in America, who has worked most unselfishly in your country, and has ever done the bidding of Master, the best he knew how, is left alone…then I say – let them go! They are no Theosophists: and if such a thing should happen, and Judge be left to fight his battles alone, then I shall bid all of them an eternal good-bye. I swear on MASTER’S holy name to shake off the dust of my feet from every one of them … I am unable to realize that at the hour of trouble and supreme fight … any true Theosophist should hesitate for one moment to back W.Q.J. publicly and lodge in his or her protest. Let them read Master’s letter in the preliminary. … All that I said about W.Q.J. was from HIS words in HIS letter to me. … Do with this letter what you like. Show it to anyone you please as my firm determination.” (See the section “MY ONLY FRIEND – H.P. BLAVATSKY ON WILLIAM Q. JUDGE” in “Letters That Have Helped Me” p. 277 and the articles Who was William Quan Judge? and The Welcome Influence of William Q. Judge.)
Yes, Helena Roerich, “many slandered him”…including yourself, it would seem; perhaps motivated by the same personal ambition, jealousy, and conceited vanity that motivated the others. Who can say?
And poor Damodar! As far as he and everyone else (including HPB) knew, HPB was still in India when he left on his journey to go and live with the Masters in one of their Himalayan retreats. As all the historical records, including HPB’s letters and Damodar’s own diary, show, he left India before she did and he went with her full blessing and approval and at the direct invitation and arrangement of the Master K.H., who was his own Teacher. As for him “dying in one of the Tibetan monasteries,” this would be news to the Masters, seeing as they sent a well known letter to report that he had reached them alive, with the Master K.H. adding:
“The poor boy has had his fall. Before he could stand in the presence of the ‘Masters’ he had to undergo the severest trials that a neophyte ever passed through, to atone for the many questionable doings in which he had over-zealously taken part, bringing disgrace upon the sacred science and its adepts. The mental and physical suffering was too much for his weak frame, which has been quite prostrated, but he will recover in course of time. This ought to be a warning to you all. You have believed ‘not wisely but too well.’ To unlock the gates of the mystery you must not only lead a life of the strictest probity, but learn to discriminate truth from falsehood.” (“Letters from The Masters of the Wisdom” First Series, Letter #29, p. 70)
HELENA ROERICH ON C.W. LEADBEATER
We definitely do need to “learn to discriminate truth from falsehood,” especially with people such as Helena Roerich around! At least she had more accuracy when it came to her remarks about C.W. Leadbeater, which for whatever reason have been discreetly edited out of the English translation of her letters. Thus it is only those who read Russian who can know exactly what she thought of him:
“Now, I want to warn you, how dangerous is the occultism of books. A mass of harmful literature floods the market. The books of Mr Leadbeater alone, with the exception of “The Inner Life” (written while his thinking still reflected the thoughts of Blavatsky), are such material. It is probably for the best that they are not translated into Russian. … And you foolishly think that his exit from the Theosophical Society is a big loss. [Note: Leadbeater had died shortly before this letter was written.] Not at all; Leadbeater was the evil genius of this Movement. He caused nothing but harm for the whole Movement. As the great Master said: “Only Blavatsky knew” and our task in the future is to raise this great woman-martyr to the proper height. If you only knew all the literature that exists about Blavatsky and all the deeds and betrayals of her closest associates, you would be horrified by the abyss of human ingratitude, filth and ignorance. Of course, the latter is the source of all the hideousness.
“Thank you for your desire to send me translated excerpts of “The Secret Doctrine” but I have already completed translation of it. Only the second volume is waiting for final checking. The decree about the translation comes from the Lord Himself. And also the Lord Himself will provide the Preface for this translation.” (6th May 1934)
“I have in English the book “The Masters and the Path” by Leadbeater and I must say that it is such an unholy mix of truth and lies and even blasphemy! The seeds of truth contained in it are as hard to pick out as true pearls from a pile of fake beads. To illustrate the lies, I will say – Lord Morya, The Great Venetian, The Teacher of the Teachers, the Lord of the World or, as the Orientals would say, King of Shambhala, and the great Manu of the Sixth Race, and Great Lord Maitreya – which are aspects of one and the same Highest Ego, or the Spirit, are in the fertile fantasy of Mr Leadbeater all divided and each lives in a separate house or temple!!!” (21st July 1934)
As for Leadbeater’s “The Inner Life,” it does not reflect any of the teachings of H.P. Blavatsky at all but presents a completely different and contradictory system from start to finish, as do all of his books, even the very earliest. There is no evidence to suggest that his thinking ever “reflected the thoughts of Blavatsky.”
Incidentally, Leadbeater himself was not averse to secretly holding séances and communicating with unseen entities through knocks and raps on the table, as shown in Dharmapala on Besant and Leadbeater.
But if so critical of Leadbeater, why did Helena Roerich pick and choose some of his inventions, ideas, and terminology when it suited her, such as the notion of the so-called “etheric double” as a principle distinct from the actual astral body? We may never know.
HELENA ROERICH ON ALICE BAILEY – “DEFINITELY A COLLABORATOR WITH DARK FORCES”
In much of the Western world today, it is the students of the Alice Bailey teachings who are some of the main promoters and students of Agni Yoga, seeing as Bailey declared the Agni Yoga teachings to be a legitimate transmission from the Brotherhood of Masters. Her organisation has always sold the Agni Yoga books and she encouraged her followers to read and study them, whilst naturally attempting to ensure that they continued to look upon her own books (also claiming to be inspired and dictated by a Master of the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood) as the most important.
This is rather ironic, in light of Helena Roerich’s opinion about Bailey, her teachings, and her Lucis Trust/Arcane School movement. Like the remarks about Leadbeater, her statements about Bailey have been kept out of the published English translations of her letters, statements such as:
“Don’t have relations with Bailey’s school, because they are hidden enemies. Don’t sell them “Community” [i.e. one of the Agni Yoga books.]. Tell them that it is not in print now.” (16th September 1951)
“Under condition of her withdrawal from the Arcane School she may have the help she needs. It is necessary to warn her how much darkness is opposing the light. And first of all it is necessary to warn against the spouse [i.e. Foster Bailey] of the founder [i.e. Alice Bailey]. He is definitely a deceiver and dishonest man. The fierce ones use our books – hence the allusions to the One Source. But I state in the Name Sacred for me that neither D.K. [i.e. Djwhal Khul] mentioned by them nor anyone of the Great Brotherhood had ever or has now any connection with the Arcane School. The founder was a definite medium. But no Teaching can be manifested by mediums. The purest among them can produce little books but not the whole series of volumes of the Teaching!” (7th December 1951)
“Of course, my dear ones, do not give any rights and copyright to people who are associated with Arcane School. Tell Branstedter and Rentz clearly that we were never connected with Arcane School or its founder and we cannot cooperate with them. But there is no need to explain to them the reason for our forbearance, the less explanation the better. Every word from you is like a red cloth for a furious bull! The Great Lord definitely does not allow us to cooperate with A. Bailey’s followers. How many attempts to stain and blot the pure foundations of the Teaching!!” (27th March 1952)
“My dear ones, … translate for them this Decision of the Great Lord: “Express My just Instruction to Rentz and Branstedter. A cooperation of Arcane School with Agni Yoga Society is absolutely impossible. And an appearance of suit and conflict between coworkers is absolutely inadmissible for Us. And Our entrusted Mother of Agni Yoga [i.e. Helena Roerich] must not be overburdened with such intolerable phenomena. Stop a translation of My Books. Enumeration of past sacrifices and complaints about suffering damage and loss cannot be made by coworkers of the Stronghold of Light. Emphatically move away from work for My Teaching which does not need wide distribution. Concealed Teaching is kept concealed with a few disciples and We don’t plan to blatantly display our Teaching on the crossroads, not only on dark ones, but also on ones doomed to collapse…”
“My dear ones, how you were grieved receiving such a severe Decision. But indeed, they broke all borders of tolerance and the furious ones have only themselves to blame. Vehemently show firm will in regard to these little troublemakers. We made a trial and none stand it, the furious ones strived for their profit. We don’t need such followers. “It is inadmissible, such overburdening of the heart of the Mother of the World [i.e. Helena Roerich!]. I need the power of the Mother of Agni Yoga to put a stop to the underground fire, and for Cosmic Cooperation on the whole Fiery Path.
“OK, translate for them “Direction and Decision” only. Mention of “Mother of Agni Yoga” and “Cosmic Cooperation” are not for them. I hope they will go away.
“For your information. The Great Lord considers the works or compilations of Alice Bailey very pernicious. She was definitely a collaborator with dark forces. It is not difficult, given some knowledge, to compile such books, when you live in cities where hundreds of thousands of occult works reside on the shelves of large libraries. The teacher of Alice Bailey does not belong to the Stronghold of Light. The Great Lord repudiates him. Pages of “White Magic” are interlaced in her works with very definite black magic. And such a mixture is of course very harmful and begets great confusion and perversion in unstable minds.” (11th July 1952)
“I advise you, my dear, not to read books by Alice Bailey. At the end of her life she manifested herself as a follower of Lucifer. … Definitely with my whole strength and responsibility I state that not a single Brother from the Stronghold of Light has ever cooperated with Mrs Alice Bailey. In her yogic classes she used the books of “Living Ethics.” [i.e. the Agni Yoga books] Much was given out from these books as if received by herself, taking advantage of the anonymity of the Teaching. Our coworkers in America, Sina [i.e. Sina Fosdick, mentioned earlier in this article] included, are well aware of the personality and activities of this dark personage. Her activity became very deleterious when she had begun to present prophecies and forecasts from her Tibetan teacher, announcing unprecedented prosperity rather than war, and when instead of the promised prosperity the years of war came, her authority was drastically diminished. Besides, her health started to weaken and repeated blood transfusions certainly did not promote spiritual growth, and she passed away. She had a well developed intellect and sizable erudition but without any signs of spirituality.” (10th October 1954)
Here we see “M.M.” referring to Helena Roerich not only as “The Mother of Agni Yoga” but also as “The Mother of the World”! As time went by, an increasingly strong emphasis on the spiritual greatness and superiority of Helena Roerich appeared in both her own private correspondence and the Agni Yoga books themselves. In the final book, titled “Supermundane – The Inner Life – Book Four,” every single paragraph begins with the words “Urusvati knows” and then proceeds to inform the reader of all the great and important things that Urusvati, i.e. Helena Roerich, knows.
A CONTINUATION & EXPANSION OF THEOSOPHY?
Members of the Agni Yoga Society and other supporters of the Roerichs believe that the Agni Yoga books are a continuation and expansion of Theosophy. This view is also held to a large extent by the Russian section of The Theosophical Society – Adyar, who promote the Agni Yoga teachings alongside those of H.P. Blavatsky.
But taking a Teaching and using some terms from it, whilst giving them a different meaning and mixing it with something else, can hardly be considered continuing or expanding that Teaching. Such twisting and distortion, along with entirely unproven and unsupported claims that it came from the same source, cannot be considered as anything other than a corruption of genuine Theosophy, regardless of the motives that may have been behind it.
We also have the repeated statements from Blavatsky, Judge, and the Mahatmas in their own Letters, that nothing further would be given out from the Gupta Vidya or Secret Doctrine after the close of the 1875-1900 cycle until the 1975-2000 cycle at the earliest. It is only in the closing quarter of each century that cyclic law permits the Masters to engage in such public work and endeavours. This has been explored at some length in the article titled The Closing Cycle. This important principle itself immediately and automatically invalidates the Agni Yoga teachings and all the others which have claimed to come from the same source and which have all invariably corrupted the original teaching, message, and focus.
The issue here is not whether or not the Agni Yoga teachings contain any spiritual truth or not. They undoubtedly contain a degree of it and we do not deny this, just as we do not deny that a small amount of truth can also be found in the Alice Bailey teachings. The prolific artwork of Nicholas Roerich is itself quite beautiful and possessing a certain unique mystical quality. The issue is whether or not the claim of the Roerichs to be direct Messengers of the Masters and transmitters – through the Agni Yoga books – of their Teaching, can be considered legitimate or credible in any way. In our view there is nothing legitimate about it.
The contributions from this family to Theosophical literature resulted in confusion and delusion for those who seek the Truth. “Beauty will save the world!” was a favourite saying of Nicholas Roerich. It sounds nice but still unfortunately it cannot, for only the Truth and nothing but the Truth can do it.
It is a sad thing that the Roerichs did not adhere to or continue with the study of Theosophy but instead followed the knocks and raps in the séance room and listened to either irresponsible spirits or actual members of the Black Lodge in masquerade, who the Masters in “The Mahatma Letters” call “The Brothers of the Shadow,” who pretend to be anything or anyone that the mind of the enquirer wants, and who compiled the texts through distorting what the Roerichs already knew and giving out false promises and expectations which fed and stimulated their inherent ambition, pride, and vanities, leading them eventually in long Himalayan treks, expeditions, and wanderings to nowhere, ever led on by false promises and hopes of finding the mystic Shambhala and becoming its Western agents and chief representatives to the world.
AGNI YOGA AND “THE NEW RUSSIA”
Intense patriotism can be a dangerous thing, especially when present in the mind and heart of a deluded psychic or one who has unwittingly opened oneself up to questionable influences. The highly Russocentric character and emphasis of the Agni Yoga teachings has been somewhat diluted and filtered out of the English translations of the books but remains in the original Russian texts, alongside the glorification of Lenin and the praise for the achievements of Russian communism.
The very first Agni Yoga book does not begin with the words “Into the New World My first message,” as English language readers have been led to believe but rather “Into the New Russia I send My first message.” Whereas “The Secret Doctrine” teaches that the primary and central location for the next sub-races and Root Race is the United States of America, the Agni Yoga teachings maintain that it will actually be Russia and not America.
One might wonder whether the thousands of Russian adherents of Agni Yoga would still have the same passion and enthusiasm for it if it had been produced by non-Russians and without any mention of or focus on Russia…by an English or Spanish couple for example, rather than a rather prominent Russian couple with Russocentric ideologies. It may well be simply the very fact of its Russian-ness which enchants the Russians so much. If so, this alone should serve as an indication of misplaced motive and misjudged priorities on the part of the students.
Instead of a firm love of Truth and indefatigable urge to reach enlightenment, the Roerichs followed the mirages of the Astral Light. While they had the true Teaching right beside them and even devoted much of their time to the immense work of translating it, instead of deep study of its doctrines they listened to the phantasmagoria of astral whisperers.
The saddest thing of all is that they led into delusion not only themselves but everyone who followed them, like the “blind leaders of the blind” mentioned by Jesus. Like Moses with the Israelites, instead of leading them to the Promised Land, they circled around the desert for 40 years . . .
Many people complain that it is difficult to study the major source texts of Theosophy such as “The Secret Doctrine” or “The Key to Theosophy” or “The Mahatma Letters” and prefer “neo-Theosophical” authors who seem to them more recent and easy to understand.
But the preference is also due to the fact that the work of those writers reflects the old views and prejudices which the reader or student is not quite willing to abandon and discard in favour of pure undefiled Esoteric Philosophy. Further, such writers do not simplify or clarify the teachings of Theosophy but instead they make them much harder to understand, as they entangle them with their own teachings, ideas, beliefs, and personal religious biases, whilst embellishing them with fancy details about the Masters, doubtless gained from the insidious Astral Light, and which are of no real value but simply divert the attention from the main goal and lead into psychism and psychic development instead of the true spiritual unfoldment and evolution.
Nevertheless, the spark of true Theosophy has not been extinguished and is kept alive by the warmth of heart of those who maintain trust and confidence in the Masters and their Devotees, ever ready to share its light with those who are willing to receive it.